Thousands of despairing Christian believers in the Soviet Union see no future for themselves in their beloved homeland, and now they want out. The ranks of Christians seeking emigration visas are swelling weekly. At least 20,000 Pentecostals want to leave, according to the highly respected Keston College Center for the Study of Religion and Communism in suburban London, and the movement is spreading among congregations, both registered and unregistered. Also, an increasing number of Baptists want to emigrate. For the first time, reports Keston, the Council of Baptist Prisoners’ Relatives has come out in support of those who wish to emigrate on religious grounds. In one of its recent secretly published bulletins, the council published an open letter to Communist Party leader Leonid Brezhnev demanding freedom to emigrate for all those wishing to do so because of religious persecution.

Few are granted exit visas, however.

On June 27, seven members of two Pentecostal families from Chernogorsk in Siberia rushed past a police guard in Moscow and barricaded themselves inside the consular lobby of the U.S. embassy. An eighth person, the teen-age son of demonstrators Pyotr and Augusta Vashchenko, was seized by police. The Vashchenkos learned later that he had been permitted to return home.

The Pentecostals announced that they would not leave the embassy until the Soviet Union granted them emigration visas. Early this month they were still there. It was the longest sit-in in the Soviet capital in memory.

In addition to Pyotr Vashchenko. 57, and his wife were three of their thirteen children, Lidiya, 27, Lubov. 25, and Liliya, 21, along with a neighbor, Maria Chmykalova, 56, and her son Timofey, 16.

By day, reported Seth Mydans of ...

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